Wednesday, May 28, 2014

TCWT May Blog Chain: Book Wishlist

Once again the lovely folks at Teens Can Write, Too! are hosting their monthly blog chain. This month's prompt is:

What kinds of published books would you like to see more of?

Disclaimer: I may be an avid reader, but there are a lot of books I haven't read, so the listed books probably do exist, and I just haven't found them yet. If you have recommendations I'd love to hear them. And let's face it: what I really want is a TARDIS so I can read all the books already on my to-read list without worrying about finding time to do so.
  1. More mysteries. Yes, several people in the chain have mentioned this, but what can I say? I agree. My parents raised me on a healthy diet of Blues Clues and murder mysteries, so I'm rather fond of that genre.
  2. More clean books. One of the reasons I'm wary of romance (be it a side plot or main plot) is that every time a kissing scene comes around I'm wincing and waiting for it to turn inappropriate. Ew. I don't want to read about that stuff.
  3. Fiction books about the Monuments Men from WWII. A few years ago, my parents read The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter, which is about the group of art scholars and museum directors who worked to preserve the great art of Europe during war time. I remembered it after I heard it was being made into a movie, and recently started reading it myself. I would totally read a work of fiction about characters involved with the Monuments Men and the art they recovered.
  4. Books by my friends. I've made a bunch of writing friends over the past few years, and would love to see their books in print. 
  5. Books about people who aren't searching for romance, or who don't find romance in the course of the story. Romance has its good points, absolutely, and I'll squeal over a cute couple as much as the next person, but not everyone is looking for romance. Some of us avoid romance because we just don't have the time and don't want to deal with the drama just yet. Lots of YA books have romance in them, but not all teens want/are ready for romance. It would be interesting to read about those people. There are other kinds of relationships and plots worth exploring. 
  6. The last of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books.  My sister and I recently looked up the next one - book 5 in a 6 book series - and it doesn't come out until next year. *Wails.*
I think that's about all. What kinds of books would you like to see more of? Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in the chain:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Worldbuilders' Disease Is Not for the Faint of Heart

Lily's Latest Writing Lesson: One only need do as much worldbuilding as a story requires, and no more. 

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the lessons reiterated by Camp NaNo was that I really, really need to do more worldbuilding. So, I started making lists of what I needed to work on. History, religion, factions thereof, geography, fashion, differences thereof between social classes etc., cultural values...

And on.

And on.

And on.

Forever, until the end of time, and certainly until the end of my sanity.

Turns out I cannot give myself Worldbuilders' Disease. Or, at least I didn't the way I intended to.

What is this mysterious Worldbuilders' Disease, some of you may ask? It is the condition that arises when one gets so wrapped up in the worldbuilding aspect of one's story that one spends eternity just worldbuilding and never actually writing anything. While I didn't intend to give myself a case quite that severe, I had hoped to be enraptured by the process of worldbuilding, the desired results being intense time spent figuring out details and nuances of my world so that I would have a rich setting for my stories.

And while this didn't seem to be a bad idea at the time, and I have mostly enjoyed this exercise, it failed to take into account one thing: The sheer enormity of this task. Part of my problem there is that I am trying to worldbuild an entire world. Not one as large as our own, mind you, but still with its own set of dramatic histories and interesting cultures. That means a lot of details. Which means a lot of brainstorming and thinking. A LOT. Normally the prospect of brainstorming would be rather enticing, seeing as it is one of my favorite parts of the writing process, but this is just so. much. brainstorming. Complex brainstorming, at that, as people and cultures are about as simple as the TARDIS.

I have learned two things from this experience:
  1. I only need to do as much worldbuilding as necessary for this story. Yes, the Ootwoxan Conquest does impact how my characters ended up where they are, but it was 100 years before my story even begins. I don't need to know the details. My story doesn't take place in Sudeth or Ootwox or on the Moss Flats. I focus on two cities: Noxumbra and Plarn. I do not need to worldbuild the rest of the continent yet. The scope of the story isn't very big. Yes, I need to have a general idea of what's going on in the rest of the world and how it came to be that way, but I don't need to know everything. This isn't the only book I'm going to set in this world, so I can do more worldbuilding when I get to those stories. I need to focus on what details/general things I need for this story.
  2. I have to keep writing short stories or story-less scenes while doing a project like this because I need regular doses of prose. 
Point number one is something I've heard before, probably on Writing Excuses.  Part of my brain argues with it, saying, "But if we build the whole world, then the characters in this story will be able to make references to other aspects of the world that, while not necessary to the plot, would add depth to the world." This is a good point. But doing this much worldbuilding at once is so far not working for me. It's entirely possible that will change, but this time I've just been overwhelmed.

So now I'm going to focus on just the essentials. Local economies, histories mentioned in the text, only one religion, just one area of one country, just one type of ecosystem. Et cetera.

I think that's all I have to say for this post. I'll have another one later on this month detailing a book wishlist for the current TCWT! monthly blog chain. Until then, may the ink ever flow freely and the plot bunnies be helpful (if such a thing is possible).

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What I Learned from Camp NaNo

I've participated in NaNoWriMo for the last three years, and each year I've learned something. In 2011 I learned that I could write a novel. In 2012 I learned that I could write a longer novel and figured out some more things about plotting and characters. In 2013 I learned that writing scenes from the POV of side characters is really fun and useful. 

This April was my first time participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, and what I lacked in word count I made up for in lessons.

  1. I am a plotter. I worry to the point of procrastination and anxiety if I don't have a basic road map for my story. Now, once in the story and when I have an idea of where it's going, I'll pants the details and go on random character development tangents, but I can't take the detour unless I have a map and know where to merge back onto the chaotic highway of the story.
  2. I really, really need to worldbuild. I knew this already from writing Noxumbra, but Book 2 drove that home. My societies need personality. I need to know what year it is. And how the Ootwoxan Conquest went down. I need to figure out religions, governments, morals, social values, how the last four interact and how they differ from place to place, ecosystems, and fashion. So, a lot. Figuring all that out is my current writing project. 
  3. Writing about characters who don't like anyone and are liked by no one in turn is hard. And not as fun as I thought. And hard. But that doesn't mean that making them cry isn't fun. It still is. (Yes, I know I'm sadistic when it comes to my characters and I think it's weird and creepy too.) 
  4. I need to play more with ensemble casts. Book 2 will probably require one.
So while I didn't make my original goal and most of what I wrote will end up being altered or scrapped due to plot changes, it was still a productive month in its way.

If nothing else it was an excuse to redecorate the dining room by taping notes and reminders to the walls. That's the new style, you know. I call it "literary chic."  It'll be a trendsetter. *Nod nod.*

For those of you who participated in Camp this last month, how did it go for you?  Even if you didn't participate, have you learned anything about your process or the craft lately?